Friday, March 21, 2008

Question of the Week - Are You Checking Your Medications?

Okay, so I am a bit paranoid about prescription drugs, but my experience this week reminded me once again WHY I worry so much! In 1997, when my dad was sick with renal failure, his doctor prescribed an iron supplement to boost his blood and give him energy, appetite, and more. For over a month, he took an anti-seizure medication prescribed for a young child instead. The pharmacist inadvertently switched the pills and put the wrong thing in the wrong bottle. Daddy nearly died before the mistake was discovered. So, I have monitored our prescriptions rather closely since then, and I have caught a couple of errors in the process.

This week, my grandmother had phoned in refills for FOUR of her prescriptions. My doctor had phoned in a backup prescription for me for an antibiotic. I knew this drug was expensive - $10 per tablet - and I had requested six tablets. The clerk commented that my prescription was really expensive! Then she began to explain to me that they had filled a prescription for Nexium for my grandmother, because her insurance company had refused to cover a prescription for Aciphex for her acid reflux. I told her, "No, that's not right. I've been down this road before, and I have spoken with her doctor AND the insurance company, and I was told she has a waiver and will be covered for prescriptions for Aciphex for the rest of her life!" The clerk went to check on the computer, and sure enough, there was the approval... the rejection was from December of 2007. With my grandmother's hospital/nursing home stay, she had not needed this refill in awhile.... maybe since December... and I guess nobody bothered to look for updated information on the computer.

While the clerk was straightening out this prescription and refilling it with Aciphex, I glanced at the stub under MY prescription and it said $154+. I knew that couldn't be right. On further inspection, I saw that the pharmacist had given me six 750 mg tablets. I take 250 mg tablets! I pointed this out to the clerk, who showed me the paper where the pharmacist had taken the order. His 2 looked like a 7, and the substitute pharmacist had filled it as such. A double-check on the computer proved that I had always had the 250 mg tablets. Had my husband picked up my medicine for me, he would not have realized the mistake.

I wonder how many seniors would have taken the Nexium and not questioned it. I feel fairly sure my grandmother would have, if she had been told her insurance company would no longer cover Aciphex. How many seniors would have taken the 750 mg tablets, never realizing that they were not the proper dosage... particularly if their Medicair Part D coverage made the price such that they didn't realize the more than double discrepancy? Or what if it was a first-time prescription... they would not know that this was 3 times the dosage they were prescribed!

How many of us are checking our seniors' medications (or our own) to make sure they are the correct medications and dosages? My pharmacy is pretty good to double-check with us on some things, but often, if there is a discrepancy, they simply don't fill the prescription. I always question this, but I have to wonder how long they would wait to mention it. How many seniors would fail to realize they were a prescription short and go without necessary medication? Sometimes we get four or five different medications at one time, so would we miss one and realize we were a pill bottle short? My grandmother is really astute, even at 95, about her medications, and we always take them out and make sure the pharmacy filled the right things. But this cannot be said for all seniors. So who is watching out for them? Are you? If not, it may be time you started.


JJ said...

Good article Debbie, I agree with you 100 percent and to many people put blind trust in their pharmacy personnel and just take whatever they are handed.

We try to check my Mom's meds as much as we can, and between my brother and I we usually keep pretty close track. We not only look at the script printed on the bottles, but we compare it to meds she had before, whenever possible and if they do not look the same we question it.

Seems as we all get older there are more and more miracle pill bottles in our lives, but isn't it strange how none of these miracles is ever the cure all.


DeeBev said...

I care gave my Mom for 6 years beginning when she was 94 years old. She was on no medication and attributed her longevity to staying away from prescribed medications. She had witnessed too many of her elderly friends and relatives who had been overmedicated and could not carry on a decent conversation without slurring or having memory lapses. Mom had a minor stroke when she was 99 resulting in paralysis to her right side. She spent 21 days in the hospital with intensive physical therapy and was able to recover the use of her arm and limited use of her leg. She was prescribed Coumadin--she could live with that. When she went to the Nursing Home, I met with the Director of Nursing and expressed Mom's desire that she not be "dosed" with pills. You see...I had received info that nurses could fax doctors 35 miles distant to receive any prescription they deemed necessary for a patient. My Mom didn't want to be a victim and I respected her wishes. Mom lived to be 100 years and 8 months of age. My point is: How many prescriptions are necessary or how many prescriptions have you been told are necessary for your elderly parent? My question to the doctor was: At Mom's age, what will she gain? When Mom passed on, she was lucid to the moment... I just read an article about a gentleman who will be 100 years old in April. A physician asked the gentleman the secret to his longevity--he said lots of butter and salt! The gentleman said he developed allergies to medication, doctors and hospitals over the years. No 100 year old will tell you that pills kept them alive--in fact they will tell you the opposite. At least the ones I have met and I was fortunate to be familiar with several 100 year olds who were residents of the same community as my Mom. Medications generate billions of dollars--often at the expense of our elderly. Bev